Aggressive Rabbits

HRJ Letters –1998

Q. My rabbit Oreo is a dutch and she likes to bite. She has bitten several family members. Do you think if I play with her more, she will stop biting? Could you give me some tips?

Emily Horstmann
Howard Lake, MN

Q. I am writing in hopes of getting advice on my rabbit Turbo. She is a six month old dwarf rabbit and has recently been spayed. She is an indoor bunny. The problem is she has become very aggressive with maturity. We thought the spaying might help, but it hasn’t. If I shoo her off the couch or bend down to pet her, she lunges at my ankles and won’t stop until I either jump on the sofa or she bites me. I’ve grown very attached to her but this problem can’t be ignored. Do you have any advice?

Christie Green
La Mesa, CA

A. Often, aggression is the sign of a sexually frustrated or territorial rabbit. Neutering males and spaying females can dramatically reduce aggression behavior. But sometimes, aggression may have other causes and you need to figure out when and why your rabbit is biting.

Some rabbits nip when they want to communicate that they are unhappy with what you’re doing. Try squealing so she realizes she’s hurting you.

Rabbits have great long-distance eyesight, but not good near-vision. A human hand in front of a rabbit’s face can be startling. If you need to approach an aggressive rabbit, try bringing your hand down from above and away from the nose.

All rabbits can be territorial. Is she biting when you pull her out of her cage? Make sure a cage is a place she can feel secure by opening the door and letting her come out on her own. When you need to clean the cage, do it when she’s not inside.

Try to find patterns. Is she stressed out by new surroundings or loud noises? Do you try to grab the bunny every time you reach for her? You may need to make changes in the way you interact with your rabbit.

It’s safe to assume that your rabbit doesn’t hate you, and that physical punishment will not help. Protect yourself by wearing long sleeves, shoes and socks, and even gloves if necessary. Then you can respond to your rabbit and her aggression with affection, and teach her that you’re not out to hurt her.

House Rabbit Journal Fall 1999: Volume IV, Number 1